Traveling in Cameroon

I originally wasn’t going to blog about my vacation, well at least on this blog, but I’ve had some cultural issues that are too good not to share.

So as you know, there were two coordinated terrorist attacks in Brussels last week. One at the airport, which caused all the flights to be closed and the airport to be closed indefinitely. I was pretty stressed about this because I couldn’t get ahold of the airline because everyone was calling to rebook which they said to do. Finally Friday morning, my call went through and they said your flight is fine check back on Saturday. Saturday afternoon they updated their site saying to rebook directly through your local office. Our local office closes at noon on Saturday and doesn’t reopen until Monday. The day of my flight.

So Monday morning I start calling and it rings and rings and no one answers. I’m with another volunteer and we are both thinking “well it is Cameroon why would they open on time.” By 9:30 I decide that its best if I just go to the office, which apparently no taxi knows where it is. I finally get there at 10:15 and its packed. The security guy gives me a number, 40. I sit and wait and they call number 11. Ugh. This is going to be a long day.

While I’m waiting, I meet a Cameroonian women who is traveling to Minnesota. After talking with her, I learn that she is from the Northwest region of Cameroon but her and her son now live in Minnesota. She showed me her green card and social security card. She also showed me her security money a $100 bill which looked really tiny and bizarre to me. We talked some more and then her number 16 was called. She got put on a waiting list and was forced to wait all day. They wanted her to come back in 2 days and she was like are you going to get me a hotel and they said they were unsure of’ the policy. So she waited.

Finally, they were in the 30s. Almost my turn and that’s when I started to see corruption at work. People were jumping the line or going up with someone with a lower number. I bit my tongue until they called number 39. I was next but when the next clerk was available another woman sat down. I then politely told them there was no way in hell I was letting that happen. In my best French obviously. The clerk  let me sit down and quickly rebooked my flight. The whole rebooking took like 15 minutes so I had no idea why they were so backed up. I was happy and wished my new friend good luck and went to get lunch because it was lunch time.

So, the lady told me that check in was between 7 and 9 pm even though the flight was at 11:30 pm. I had no desire to sit there all night so I had my taxi come at 7:30. I began to regret that decision once we hit traffic but we made it there by 8:40 and there was a huge line to check in. But no worries, they changed my flight to 12:55 am.

I no longer felt stressed about time but I was very tired. As you know, my bedtime is 8 and we were past that. Its been a while since I’ve flown and with all the terrorist attacks security is as tight as ever. Even in Cameroon. How tight? I got my bag x rayed and searched as I walked through a detector in one room and immediately after I left that room they searched my bag and wanded me. I don’t know what I could have changed in the time I opened the door but I’m glad they are being thorough.

So now we are waiting for the flight. I sleep a little and when I wake up I see my friend from the travel agency. She tells me we should be boarding but they are waiting for people. We finally get the cue to board and its insane. Lines don’t exist and its just a mad rush to get through this one door. Its ridiculous but I’m finally on the plane.

We arrive in Frankfurt around 9:30 am. Since Brussels doesn’t operate from there they drop us in a back lot and shuttle us. As soon as I step outside, I go “holy shit its cold”. In reality its not that cold. It reminded me of a sunny winter day. My body adjusted immediately but it was a reminder I’m not in Cameroon anymore.

Once my shuttle got to the airport, I had to go through passport control and security. So I got scanned and my bag checked again. I’m not complaining, I’m glad that they are being thorough. The airport is really nice and they have free WiFi. I regret my decision to not get a hot dog but after security I thought I was going to be late to my gate. No worries there my flight departed an hour late. I’m writing this blog on the plane and will post in Paris.

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Update Extravaganza Part Deux

Chickens, Chickens, and more Chickens

By the time I leave Cameroon, I’m pretty confident that I could start my own chicken farm. I have learned so much in such a short amount of time. Justine, our resident chicken expert, had an unexpected loss of chickens last year so I have been helping her reestablish her business. And woo, there is a steep learning curve but I think I’m past it. I spent all of December and January with her and 3 other women planning out this business. Technically there was just me, Justine and Arlette doing all the work but we had 2 other women there to help vote on things. We pretty much started this group from scratch, I dug deep into my Bradley days and tried to use as much of my business knowledge as possible to help, since I am their consultant. Arlette took business classes since she will inherit the business once Justine is done and the three of set to work.

We received 200 1 day old chicks in February. IMG_1863I was the lucky one to help pick them up and I got to vaccinate themIMG_1871. After we took them back to Batie, Arlette helped us get them set up in the heating room and gave them some anti-stress medicine and fed them. IMG_1878We fed the chicks a pre-mixed food for the first 21 days but for the last 24 days we wanted to mix our own. These are meat chickens so you want them to grow fast and be big. I got to spend an entire day at the chicken food place because power was out but I learned all the different types of food and how to mix them to create a nice balanced meal for the chickens. We mixed 500 kilos worth of food that day.

 

 

In my chicken education, Justine sent me to spend a morning with one of my neighbors who raised layers. He had 300 chickens in his coop and he collects roughly 1 egg from each chicken a day and sells them all to a guy in Douala. I helped him collect eggs that morning and then he sat me down and explained the costs of having layers versus meat chickens. Layers are so much more expensive because they don’t start laying until after 4 or 5 months. I immediately understood why that was not a good business for rural women but I was curious as to why he didn’t sell them in village. He wouldn’t give me a straight answer he just kept saying he sold to Douala.

I left there a little sad but also inspired because I know that all the boutiques buy their eggs outside of village which mean there was a market gap in Batie. I didn’t bring it up to Justine because I knew she couldn’t afford to do it unless we could form a cooperative and have a ton of people pay in. But little did I know that that was the exact reason Justine sent me there. Just a couple of days ago, when I was helping her feed and vaccinate the chickens, she mentioned that she wants to figure out a way to switch completely to layers.

So right now, I am crunching the numbers to try to figure out exactly how much money she would need to raise layers. Her idea is to do a concurrent tour of meat chickens so the sell of the chickens could fund the feed for the layers. The problem is that you need at least 300 layers to make the business work and that is a lot of feed and I’m not sure if its economical to even have the meat chickens or if it’s a waste of money. So, we will see what happens with that.

Also, I purchased 10 chicks of my own. The guy said they were 30 days old but they look more like 2 weeks old. One already died, which is sad, but that’s what happens when you have animals and it was obviously sick when I received it. They are currently living at Justines because I’m going on vacation so she can monitor them for illnesses and the such. I’m going to keep them just until I leave. The guy gave us a book that said they were Rhode Island browns and a hybrid, which means they could give eggs if I got a male. I wouldn’t be here when they start producing eggs so I’m not sure whether I will eat all the chickens or give them to Justine to raise. IMG_1921

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Super duper update extravaganza Part 1

Who is ready for the super duper spectacular update?! Raise your hand!

Hey all, it’s been a crazy few months since my last post, which is why I haven’t posted. As you know, I’m training for a marathon (you can read all about that fun stuff here) and that has kind of consumed my life but in a good way. I also have 2 well 3 really cool projects that take up the rest of the day. So, my typical schedule for the past 3 months has been this

5 AM – 6 AM – Wake Up and drink coffee, check reddit, email, and facebook

6 AM – 8 AM – Go for a run and do yoga

8 AM – 9 AM – Breakfast and sometimes laundry, and internet stuff

9 AM – 12 PM – Project related stuff (not at home)

12 PM – 1 PM – Eat lunch at one of my mamas shacks

1 PM – 6 PM – Work at home, this includes housework, and eat dinner

6 PM – 8 PM – TV time

8 PM – Bedtime

Yes, I go to bed at 8 pm, no I am not 90 years old. Training for a marathon is hard work and working on farms is also hard work, so I’m usually exhausted by the time I start watching my TV shows and always end up passing out before 8. So, whats been keeping me so busy? 3 things: community gardens, chickens, and camp!

Community Gardens, you say (raises eyebrow)

Yes, community gardens. Flashback to September when my postie Allison and I were building gardens all over village, some of them actually stuck. Well one stuck, and I’m forcing the other to work but they love it (no really they do). The one that stuck is the school garden at the bilingual school. Remember these lovely children (insert pic). Well, they really enjoyed their garden and I really enjoy working with them so I decided to make it a weekly thing. So, every Wednesday I go to their school and we have garden club. So far, I’ve covered what plants like, what is good soil, how to make compost, germination and how to protect the environment.

It is an all around great time. The kids are divided in six teams (Mango, Orange, Papaya, Banana, Acocado, and Apple). Each team has their own garden bed that they can work in and grow a small amount of different things. The teams can earn trees and axes. They get trees if their bed is properly weeded, there isn’t any trash, and it’s watered. They get axes if they talk without permission, litter, don’t weed, or are generally disruptive. The team with the most trees gets a prize at the end of the school year. I’m not sure of what just yet.  At the end of the year, we will hold a garden party for their parents and the school and eat some of the food that they grew.

I presented on this project at my Mid Service Training and I was invited to present this to the 1st year volunteers at their PST- Reconnect. It was really cool that I was recognized for the work I’ve done and it was great to be able to share some of my successes with them because I remember when I was sitting in those chairs.

I’m working on another community garden with some women in my neighborhood. IMG_1851My original intention was for this to be a teaching garden and it still is. We meet at 8 am every Monday and work until it gets too hot and then we go inside and I teach a little lesson about organic farming. Yep, you read that right, I’m teaching about organic farming. Its pretty cool because I’m basically using knowledge that I’ve learned from other farmers (mainly my apprenticeship at Growing Places) and putting it in a way that they can understand. Topics I’ve covered are the benefits of organic farming, compost, intercropping, a little bit of crop rotation and how to make a nursery. Future topics include organic insecticide and fertilizer, seed saving, and harvesting and transformation.

This farm is my baby. As I said, my intention was for it to be a teaching garden but now I see it as a way to feed the community. During one of the first sessions, I talked about rescheduling for market days but they refused because they didn’t have money for the market. I was really surprised at that and at that moment decided that this farm needed to be more than education but about nourishing the community. So, I’m in the process of creating a CSA with the women. In America, we pay for our CSA’s but since the women do not have disposable income, I am setting up a work schedule for the farm. A household has to work a certain number of hours at the farm to be eligible for a share. We have yet to decide how many shares we are offering because of some production issues but we are confident that we can at least feed 10 households with our offering. Once things are ready to be harvested, I will hold cooking classes to demonstrate how the things can be prepared nutritiously.

These farms are a lot of work. I’m pretty sure I spend 45% of my time working on it, whether out in the field, writing lesson plans, or writing the garden guide I will leave them. While the work is hard, I really enjoy it and I think this will be my legacy in Batie.

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Reflecting on the past

Hey all! New year, new post finally! I decided to participate in a blogging challenge in the hopes that it would inspire me to write a little bit more. So it’s a 6 week challenge and they will send me prompts twice a week. This weeks prompt they ask us to revisit why we went abroad. I think this is a great prompt because I’m currently hanging in Yaounde with 17 of my closest friends at our Mid-Service Training.

What is mid-service? Its exactly what it sounds like. It’s a training that PC holds about halfway through our service. We reflect on the past year and plan for the next year. My stage is a little weird because of the holidays so we technically only have 10 months left (I know so crazy!).  Monday, we presented on all of the different projects we are doing. It was really cool to see what everyone has been working on. I even got some ideas for myself. Yesterday, we talked about telling our story with data and community engagement. I have a really cool project in the works for my MI and I learned some really good tools to help with it. But I digress, this week has given me time to reflect on what I’m doing here in PC and what I hope to achieve.

I applied to PC because I wanted to travel and potentially work internationally. It had always been a dream of mine to do it and I originally planned to do it after graduating college. I was convinced to test my feet in the development world with Americorps before applying. As I was doing AmeriCorps I decided I wanted to apply to grad school and study sustainability. I was also torn between applying to Peace Corps. I was dramatic in thinking that this would be my only chance to do it. That’s when I discovered the Master’s International program, I could do one year of school and then serve.

Now that I’m here my reasons for staying are different then why I came. The work experience I’m getting on farms has really helped guide my post-PC path. I no longer want to work in international development. I want to continue to travel and explore and learn about other cultures, but I want a home base in America. I’m glad I am able to have this experience of living abroad for 2 years because this is a rare chance of being able to grow so much as a person in such a short period of time. So, in honor of the 10 months I have left in service, here is a list of 10 ways I have changed (some serious and some fun)

  1. I know how to knit
  2. I eat things with eyes
  3. I’m more opinionated
  4. I cook everything from scratch
  5. I’m more focused on my health
  6. I’m more confident in my truth
  7. I’m okay with being alone
  8. My focus has shifted from things to experiences
  9. I’m okay with having little money if my job makes me happy
  10. I’m finally okay with where I am

 

 
Blogging Abroad's Boot Camp Blog Challenge: Starting January 2015

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Hey there…

Work has been pretty slow lately. I thought I had some projects in the works from people who approached me with ideas but those are stalling. The problem is everyone wants me to do the legwork and they just want to show up. That’s not development to me. So, I’m not working. I’ve been enjoying reading on the hammock and catching up on all my tv shows. Its frustrating for sure but what good is it for me to do all the work.

For example, my friend Bart wants to create a bee cooperative. He approached me, we had a meeting and nothing ever since. He keeps reassuring me that he still wants to do but I’m waiting on action from him. I can’t lead the group, I’m leaving so he has to be the one to organize things. I’ve told him what needs to be done but still nothing has happened.

Other examples, there is a medicinal farm near my house and the women want me to help them. But they can’t put into words what they need. From my observation, they need business lessons and I’ve offered them. Their response “We will discuss a date at our next meeting and let you know.” Its been almost a month and they have not given me a date and when I ask about whether they have decided on something they are vague.

There is a woman in village. She was my original PC assigned counterpart but it was decided that it was not working out, so I cut her loose. She worked with the PCV before me on a chicken business and seemed to be doing well on her own. I’m not really sure how well since she was very secretive about it. Everyone else who was helping her quit because they couldn’t trust her. Her response was this generation of women aren’t very responsible. When I asked if I could see her records from the business, she always seemed to forget them at our next meeting. Either she didn’t have records or she just didn’t want to share them. Either way, I decided I was over trying to help someone who didn’t want to be helped. Even though this was my PC assigned project, I felt like I was wasting my time and my PM agreed.

I’ve gotten some heat in village, mainly her husband (who is probs a little crazy) about how I never help her and she is doing it all alone. I call bull. She doesn’t want help and the one project I asked her to help me with failed. That’s another blog post. So, fast forward to late September early October. She wakes up one morning and all her chickens are dead. Because of ants. Yes, ants ate her chickens. Apparently that’s a thing. She is crying because she hasn’t saved any money and she can’t buy new ones and she already purchased the food for this tour. She’s basically sol.

While I genuinely felt bad for her, I resist the urge to basically say I told you so. What I mean by this is that if she would have let anyone into the business, the costs may not solely be on her and maybe she would have been able to save some money. But that’s neither here nor there. It happened she can only learn from her mistakes. My lovely postie felt bad for her and offered to raise some money for her when she returned to the states, which she did.

We decided to put restrictions on the use of the money that everyone could agree on.  The first thing, she needed some helpers. Second, she needed a budget. Third, she needed to keep records. These were simple things. I approached her and told her that there was money for the chickens and  I gave the restrictions. I then said that we should meet soon and create a budget to send to the organization that is giving the money so they can understand. She goes yes, I’ve already started working with two of my friends I will discuss with them and come to your house. That was almost a month ago.

I’ve called her multiple times and it seems like she is avoiding me. Usually I see her at least once a week. It sucks because there is money in the US for a cool chicken project but it can only be used with her and I don’t think I can rely on her. She is MIA. I hope nothing is wrong with her medically, she is 65 years old, but that has to be the only reason I haven’t seen her in a month.

So yeah, this has been my life for the past few months hoping people will work with me on projects and not just be an observer. C’est comme ca ici. I am getting a bit antsy so I might just start doing the work myself but there is only so much I can do.

I will end in some good news. I’M GOING TO PARIS IN MARCH/APRIL!!!!! On my birthday, I officially booked my plane ticket to Paris. I will spend a lovely week in Paris, run the Paris Marathon, then a week in Budapest, a couple days in Berlin and Amsterdam and then fly back to Cameroon from Paris. I’m not doing a big trip after I COS so this will do.

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Playing in Dirt

I started to do some project planning today, mainly to keep me distracted from the fact that I’m all alone in my village now. Allison’s COS week started on the 14th. I’m traveling to Yaounde on Sunday so we can be all its not goodbye its see you later, which it is. I’ve already convinced her to come to Indy when I COS and run the Indy Monumental with me. But, this post is not about that. As I was project planning, I’ve realized that I haven’t updated you on my work here.

Allison and I are pretty sure we have single handedly upped the new garden statistics for PC Cameroon in the month of September. We have been gardening like crazy. Allison received a donation of over 200 seeds from High Mowing Organic Seed (check them out), and we distributed in different ways. We set aside some for my nutrition group (more on that later), gave all the herbs to one of our friends who has a medicinal plant farm (that means basil, mint, rosemary, dandelions, stuff like that), and the rest we decided to build gardens. We created a garden at the hospital, a maternelle school, the bilingual primairy school, Lycee Batie, and the CES. So, that’s 5 gardens in total.

Each garden received the same plants but different varieties: corn, pac choy, beets, radishes, salad mix, tomatoes, peas, green beans, carrots, squash, cucumbers, and swiss chard. We tried to include students in the work but were only really able to at the primary school.IMG_1405.

We also made a 6th garden. I am really proud of this one. I’ve become really interested in food security and permagardens are a tool we can use in solving this problem. I’ve been reading a lot about this and was actually discouraged by admin in doing it. They wanted me to do more of a community survey to see if it would work. I didn’t think it needed a community survey. So, we decided to host a training at my house. It lasted two days and I think it was great. The pictures are their own album on FB because I will keep adding to it.

We had a total of 7 participants which was great because we didn’t have a lot of tools. Pretty much in a permagarden, you dig ditches and holes to help control the water. The holes will hold the water after a heavy rainfall and it will slowly spread throughout the garden instead of the water just sitting in the beds. You also double dig the garden beds. This is because traditionally, when we prepare the beds we only go as low as our hoes or shovels do. Over time, that point where we stops becomes a hard layer of soil that roots have a hard time entering, which means we have to plant our crops farther apart so the roots can spread. But, when we double dig, we remove the top layer, then break up the hard layer so the roots and water can enter and grow straight down. Doing this, we can plant things closer together and fit more things in a smaller space.

In our permagarden, we have 6 garden beds,

Bed 1: soy and lettuce.
Bed 2: collards and beets.
Bed 3: green beans and chard
Bed 4: zucchini, peas, and radishes
Bed 5: Tomatoes, carrots, and parsley
Bed 6: black beans

So right now, we have 13 different veggies growing in our garden right now, and we could have more, if I decide to intercrop the black beans with something. We are planning on meeting again at the end of October to make plant tea and hopefully plant a live fence around the garden.

My hope is that this becomes a teaching garden and not just a community garden, even though it is in front of my house. My future plans for the garden include a seed saving workshop, and lessons on cover crops.

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The Beginning of my Soy Empire

Today, I started my soy empire…haha just kidding.

Actually, I made homemade soy milk. I was going to make tofu as well but there was some difficulties.

Soy transformation is one of the pillars of PC work here in Cameroon (in my opinion). Almost everyone knows how to transform soy into milk, yogurt, flour, and tofu. We also know how to make homemade wine (that will be another post). If you are going to be talking about nutrition, you will most definitely talk about the power of soy.

Especially here in the West. The West has the perfect climate almost anything can grow here (which is why I’m one of few volunteers to enjoy a kale salad every once in a while). Soy is planted just like any bean and it’s a nitrogen fixer which means its great for the soil. Winner all around.

I know in the US there is always some debate about whether soy is good for you. In my opinion, everything is good in moderation. So back to my soy milk.

I soaked the beans overnight in my marmite. A marmite is just a dutch oven but they call them marmites here. I think it was roughly about 3 ½ cups after soaking. I just poured half my bag of beans in and didn’t measure. After I soaked, I drained.

Soaked soybeans after draining

Soaked soybeans after draining

This is when difficulties began. Most volunteers take the soaked beans to a grinder and pay to have them grinded. But I have a blender, so I went that route. I heard horror stories about the engine of the blender being blown because its not strong enough but I risked it. My engine wasn’t the problem. My blender was cracked. I didn’t realize it until I was halfway through and I noticed the puddle of milk surrounding it but I powered through and finished and got this.

IMG_1381

This is what I got after I blended the beans with water. Milk!

So, there are two ways to make the milk. Most volunteers without a blender are trained in the following: 1) get the soybeans grinded, 2) in your marmite mix 1 cup of the soybean paste, with 3 cups of water. You want a 1:3 ratio with your soy and water 3) boil it for 10 -15 minutes, that kills the toxins that all beans have 4)strain it through a colander or some kind of cloth and then you have your milk.

That’s a very good method but I don’t prefer it because you can’t really press it because its hot so you lose some liquid.

I combined steps 1 and 2. In my blender, I put the beans and water and blended it until I got a puree. I then poured that puree into my colander and pressed it. I repeated that about 4 times until everything was done. By that point, I had all liquid and I just had to boil it before storing it.

My jars ready for their milk

My jars ready for their milk

I boiled for the recommended amount of time and came out with 5 jars of soy milk.

Final Product

Final Product

If my blender wasn’t cracked I might have had enough milk to make tofu. I still have a fair amount of beans left so once my milk is gone, I will make some more milk and make some tofu.

I really want to try to make tempeh but Google tells me I need to order a starter kit online so it will ferment correctly. All in all, its fairly easy to make the milk and the other stuff.

Oh and according to Google, the milk should last in my fridge for about a week but I doubt it will last that long for me.

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Bees, Bees, Bees!

Bees, Bees, Bees,

This past Monday and Tuesday, my postmate Allison and two of her stagemates, Cloud and Danielle, held a bee keeping training in Batie. They are also holding a training in Cloud and Danielle’s villages as well. Today they are in Danielle’s village Bansoa and next week they will be in Cloud’s village Bapi.

My stagemate Becca and I attended the training because Becca wants to do the training in her ville and I was going to help with logistics. I didn’t get to see all of the training due to the fact that I spent most of the first day hanging out at the Carrefour waiting for the Mama that Allison hired to finish cooking the food and I spent the second day discuting with the girl at the print shop. But I did manage to capture some pics.

The first day talked about bee basics and how to make soap from the wax. I missed part of the soap session and all of the basics. I did manage to see the last session of the day which was all about managing the hive. Danielle talked about when and where to place your hive, and different maladies and how to prevent them.

The second day was interesting as well. Allison presented on the different equipment needed to be a beekeeper. I took pictures with her camera since she was presenting. But I did get some pictures of the ruche (bee hive) that the participants built. After that, they talked about harvesting honey and other products they can make and then finished with a short talk on marketing.

Digital Camera

Building

Digital Camera

Still Building

Digital Camera

Finished!

Digital Camera

Tada! A Kenyan Bee Hive

As I said earlier, Becca wants to do the training in her ville using the same format. So, Becca, our friend Greg and I will do our round of trainings in October. We are doing it so soon because dry season starts in November/December and you want to have your hives placed during dry season or at least before the rains start again to give the bees time to settle in. We will then do another round of trainings on harvesting and transformation in March. April and May are roughly the months where you would harvest the honey if you want to harvest.

Speaking of harvesting and transformation, its very difficult to do a lot of the transformation activities because of the lack of refined wax. You can’t buy refined wax in Cameroon, but luckily there is a nonprofit that works with a German company in the next town that can supply it. But that just increases cost.

So, my friend Bartholemy wants to start a GIC for bees. A GIC is basically a cooperative so all the beekeepers who want to be a part of it will be able to pool their resources like money and wax and work together instead of alone. Our first order of business is learning how to refine the wax ourselves or at least trying to. I’m also going to teach them some basic business skills.

Its going to be an interesting learning experience. I just hope I don’t get stung because I’m pretty sure I’m allergic.

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Story Time

I haven’t posted in a while and I promise I will start regularly posting again but first I have to tell two stories. I will start with the one that doesn’t have to do with bodily functions, the one about my dog.

Arya is almost a year old. When she was around 6 months, I did what any good pet owner would do. I got her vaccinated and tried to schedule her spay surgery. The doctor gave her all her shots but decided that she was too small for the surgery. I was a little peeved since I know that in America we do spays on dogs smaller than her. But a fellow PCV reminded me that I was in a developing country and if they didn’t feel comfortable operating on her at that size I shouldn’t push it. So I didn’t. They told me to wait two months and then come back. I waited but Arya didn’t grow. She hasn’t really grown much since she hit 6 months which is weird because her brother and mother are about medium sized dogs but she is still pretty tiny. I decided to wait until she was a year, that way I could say for sure, this is her size she will not get any bigger.

Fast-forward to about 2 weeks ago, I returned from Yaounde, to discover her vulva was swollen. She had entered into her first heat while I was gone. I knew this was going to happen since she wasn’t spayed but I was not prepared for all that came with it. For the past two weeks, all my furniture has been covered with towels and old pagne scraps to catch the discharge and I’ve been diligently walking her on a leash and never letting her go outside unattended. But then the discharge stopped and all hell broke loose. At night I would hear dogs barking in the distance and think no big deal. Until they got closer. For the past week, the dogs have been getting bolder and hanging out in the fields around my house and on my porch. Now when I walk Arya, I feel like a spy. First, I have to go out alone and figure out where all the dogs are. Then I pick up rocks and throw them at the dogs. After they run away, I grab Arya and some more rocks and take her on a quick walk being super observant of my surroundings. I thought I had everything under control until Wednesday morning. I had to use the latrine around 5 am, so I got up and shut Arya in the room. I left the back door open a little bit not thinking anything of it. As I left the latrine, I saw a tail enter my house. Yes, a tail. First I thought it was Arya and she managed to open the door so I called and nothing happened. I quickly ran back to my latrine and closed the door and waited. Luckily, my latrine window faces the house and I have a chair so I stood on the chair with the rocks and waited. After about a minute, this black dog came out and I begin pelting the back door with rocks to get it to run. Eventually it crawled back under the fence and I sprinted to my house. After this experience, I told my friend Bartholemy and he came over yesterday with his son and they reinforced the bottom of my fence so my back yard is fully secure again.

Also, before you comment on how I should get her spayed ASAP I know. But there are two issues with this. The first, the cost. It costs around 80,000 cfa which for me is 3 months rent/half my monthly allowance. I’m planning on getting her spayed in October but she won’t stop going into heat. Arya’s mother is the pet of another volunteer and the volunteer got her spayed and a few months later she went into heat. First we thought they didn’t actually spay her, since again developing country, but actually they only take out the uterus and not the ovaries even though the surgery is called an ovarectomy. So, she will go into heat but not be able to get pregnant, so I will still have to deal with the dogs.

My second story is kind of disgusting but I am okay with sharing it because its hilarious. Stop reading now if you don’t want to know.

Like really, stop!!

Ok, so you made it this far, here it goes. For the past several weeks, I’ve had diarrhea. I didn’t think it was too bad, it was only in the morning and then I was fine for the rest of the day. But I wasn’t fine. There was a reason that I hadn’t had a solid poo in a month and I needed to figure it out. But again, I wasn’t too concerned. I was highly functioning despite peeing out of my butthole every morning. I was still able to run 5 miles a day and other things and I didn’t feel dehydrated. This past Saturday, I decided to take cipro. Cipro is a medicine we have in our med kits that essentially kills all the good and bad bacteria in your stomach. I took the first pill and immediately vomited. So, I’m not sure it actually worked. I did have a little diarrhea later in the day. Since I threw up, I decided to call PCMO (the doctor) and explain my issues. He told me that he wanted me to give a stool sample for the next 3 days and to continue to drink water and eat bananas. I said okay, I can poo in a cup.

I went to the hospital in Batie that night to get what I assumed would be a cup but at 4 pm, anyone who could help me was gone. What followed began a hilarious interaction.

Nurse: Come back tomorrow between 8 and 3 and give your sample.

Me: I can only do it then?

Nurse: yes

Me: but I usually poo before 8

Nurse: well, you can’t give your sample until after 8.

Becca (another PCV with me): but its diarrhea you can’t schedule it

Nurse: well the person who does it isn’t here and won’t be until the morning.

So we left the hospital, and hoped I  could hold my poo in until the morning. In the morning we returned to the hospital, and the person still wasn’t there. This conservation followed:

Me: Can you just give me the cup and I can bring it back when I’m done?

Nurse: No you have to buy it first and the finance person isn’t here

Becca: we have to go to a training can she just pay you and you give her the cup?

Nurse: She can go now and we can collect it here.

Me: I don’t have to go now, can I just have the cup?

Nurse: There isn’t a cup. Just take a banana leaf and collect the sample.

Becca: A leaf? There isn’t a cup

Nurse: but just a petite amount

Me: I have diarrhea. Its liquid. How is this possible?

Nurse: We only need a small amount. Just get a banana leaf.

Me: ok, thanks, I will see what I can do.

Becca and I left and headed to the training and had some kids get me a banana leaf. I was never able to actually poop that day and my diarrhea has disappeared and I’m back on solid ground. But I will never forget the day when I was told to poop in a leaf.

Also, bonus commentary from my postmate Allison, “How is that even sanitary? There are so many things living on a leaf that could show up, like banana slugs! Are they going to tell you that is the cause of your diarrhea, banana slugs?”

Happy Friday!!

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Making a Choice

So I haven’t written a blog post in a while and it’s because I didn’t know what to write. I came into this thinking I would only write about the things that would interest you, like my work or the culture or just cool things I’ve learned. But if I continue that way, I would be deceiving you. So here it goes.

Its 6:30 am as I write this and I am sitting in the Baffice (the PC case in Bafoussam). I am getting ready to travel to Yaoundé to get my vision tested and to attempt to have a serious talk with my programming team about my future in PC. Yep, my future. PC is many things one of which is a bureaucratic organization which means they do some things well and other things not so well. The one thing they have been struggling with in Cameroon is site development. Sometimes they are on the mark and other times, like in my situation they aren’t.

When PC develops a site they look to see if there is housing, if it’s safe and more importantly if there is work. Batié meets the first two criteria. I have a great house and I feel safe but I’m not entirely productive. You may be thinking, but you are posting about all these things you are doing. And yes, I have done some work in Batié but its not sustainable development. The two things I have done have been classes that teach something but it ends there. The major thing I want to note is that these aren’t projects that the community has asked me to do. The malaria program was part of a competition for World Malaria month. My business classes were technically a community demand since someone wanted me to do them but it wasn’t a need. It was so hard getting people to attend the class because most people had already attended the class with previous volunteers.

What I’m trying to say is, is that sustainable change comes from the community and not me. I’m just here to be a facilitator in that and that isn’t happening in Batié. I thought I was just focusing on the wrong demographic so I decided to do a business camp in August but there is no support for it. Many of the officials refuse to help me pay for it and their attitude is pretty much good luck with that.

I didn’t expect PC to be easy but I didn’t expect my community to not want my help or at least not see me as a valuable resource. It’s been a hard 8 months in Batié and its coming down to one thing:

I’M NOT HAPPY

I spend most of my days on my computer watching movies or television shows or working out. Which is fine sometimes you need to have a little self care. But I can do all these things back in America, so why should I do them here? People also say that you grow professionally in an Anglophone region and grow personally in a francophone region. I get that. I have grown personally. I know what I want out of my life when I return to the states and how I will get there but I also want to grow professionally (just a little bit).

The thought of ETing has crossed my mind. On my last day of my apprenticeship, I was told by someone I admire greatly that it would be okay if I came home early and no one would judge me. I understand that but I don’t think my work here is done.

My meeting tomorrow will be a discussion on my options. I have an ideal plan in my head of what should happen next but I also know that PC has a plan as well. I hope they are similar and if not I hope we can come to a compromise.

As I said earlier, I’m not happy and I’m going to do everything I can think of to be happy in this country. I was happy for a short while so I know I can get there again I just need to find a way to be productive professionally. PC has three goals, the first one deals with work and the other two deal with sharing cultures. I think I can be happy with just focusing on Goals 2 and 3 but I want to focus on Goal 1 just a little bit.

I will keep you all posted on what I decide because in the end, it’s my choice and mine alone.

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